I came across this quote a couple of months ago on a Being Freelance podcast. I think Jason Resnick nicely captures the whole freelance work-life balance thing.
I mean for me, the work/ life balance thing, I don’t know if there’s so much a work/ life balance as much as it’s just a mesh when you’re freelance.Jason Resnick
Spoiler alert. You’ll notice the title of this blog isn’t ‘how I found the perfect work-life mesh’. I don’t think there’s a golden bullet, is there? Right now I feel like a terrible example.
I’m also conscious I don’t have kids yet. If you read this and think ‘you don’t know you’re born’. Fair point. I see other freelancers juggle family life and I’m genuinely in awe.
Now I’ve really sold it to you, here are a few things that might be worth thinking about in your work-life mesh.
Stop feeling guilty!
Starting with a big one. It can’t just be me. It’s probably one of the things I find hardest about balancing work and life.
Because my wife works regular hours, I feel guilty if I’m not at it by the time she’s left for work before 8 and wouldn’t dream of knocking off before she gets home around 5.
But in my old jobs I never felt guilty when I was being paid to enjoy annual leave or take advantage of any of the other benefits that come with employment.
We need to stop feeling so guilty and enjoy the flexibility of freelancing.
Whatever you do, be productive
Make the most of the mesh. Don’t fight it. I’ve started adding home jobs to my work to-do list.
One afternoon about a month ago I just couldn’t face any more client work. Rather than procrastinate and play at it for the next few hours, I looked at the home life stuff I didn’t want to do at the weekend. 3 hours later I’d power washed the drive and taken a car full of rubbish to the tip. And then on the Sunday morning I caught up on my client work.
It doesn’t really matter when things gets done, as long as you hit deadlines and keep your clients happy.
Get a dog
Actually, get 2 dogs.
This one might not be for everyone. But there are lots of benefits to having a canine friend.
I couldn’t imagine what I’d be like if I didn’t have the company of our dogs and the commitment they bring.
They pop up to the office and see how I’m getting on. They let me know when the postman arrives and shred any letters from HMRC.
In return I take them for lots of walks. Getting out every day for some fresh air is such a good move and it’s a welcome distraction from work. Until one of them rolls in something dead and the other forgets that he didn’t make the grade as a police sniffer dog. Great nose and enthusiasm, terrible listening and recall.
Don’t treat everything as work
I don’t treat everything I do as ‘proper’ work. Some of it I just enjoy and plenty of people would rightly count them as a hobby.
I generally enjoy writing blogs (this week might be the exception). I really don’t mind spending a couple of hours at a weekend putting something together.
It’s nice to get out and meet people so I find it hard to call informal networking and catch ups proper work, either.
I know some people who think of social media as work. If that’s what you specialise in, it probably is. But I stopped taking it too seriously very early on. Keeping up with news, stumbling across useful articles and staying in touch with nice people hardly feels like work to me.
Running. Walking. Sports. Jumping around in front of the telly to that guy with floppy hair and a squeaky voice.
Whatever does it for you. Everyone needs a release. I find I’m able to think clearly when I get out for a run.
And I really notice the difference when I don’t run for a few days. Usually when I’m at my busiest, which is probably also the time I need it the most. It can be a hard cycle to get out of though.
I also think with no sick pay we owe it to ourselves to look after ourselves, physically and mentally. Staying active is a great way to do this.
Talk to people
For anyone who knows me, this will come as a surprise. I’ve always found socialising, well, exhausting.
But going freelance has made me value the social side of life a lot more as I spend so much time at home on my own.
You’ve got to make time for family and friends. I definitely got this bit wrong to start with.
I’ve always played football but I quit just as I went freelance. I wasn’t enjoying it at the time and thought it was a distraction I could do without.
But actually, it’s a distraction I can’t do without. Working from home can be isolating and freelancing is all consuming at times. I miss the release of football. Being part of a team. The pub. Another one to get back into next year.
We talk a lot about our one-person businesses. But it’s rarely just one person making it work and I couldn’t do this on my own.
The amount of support I get from my wife is unreal and I know just how lucky I am. I might get her a Christmas present this year.
She never questioned my decision to leave a perfectly good job for the insecurity and unknown of freelancing. She never complains when I cancel our plans because ‘something’s come up’ or lose weekends to work. She just wants me to be happy and do what I enjoy.
At the same time she’s firm with me and tells me in no uncertain terms when I’m working too hard. Because no one else will. And I need that.
When I’ve been stupidly busy she chips in without a second’s thought. She’s pretty useless with data to be fair, but she’ll run my errands, pick stuff up and help out with my admin.
She’s also made me re-think how I measure success. As cliched as it sounds, it’s not just about the money anymore. There’s more to life. If we’re comfortable, we’re happy. Being able to eat tea together (I’m northern), go for walks together and catch up in front of the TV each evening means more to me than a few extra quid. I’d take time over money.
So yeah, when I think about it, for me it’s my wife that holds the mesh together. And she’s the reason to make the mesh work. I have a lot to be thankful for.